3 Reasons Super Bowl 50 Might Be My Last

3 Reasons Super Bowl 50 Might Be My Last

Next week Sunday evening, the Carolina Panthers and star young quarterback Cam Newton will face off against veteran Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Super Bowl 50 at Levi Stadium is being touted as the “Father Time vs. The Fountain of Youth” matchup, and rightfully so. Only New England Patriots superstar Tom Brady can rival future Hall of Famer Manning for the title of generational greatest. And Newton? Well he’s 26 years old and already the best of what remains should Manning and Brady finally decide to hang up their cleats. Barring major injury (unfortunately always a prospect in the NFL), we should be talking about him for a long time.

I’m deeply interested in this game. I’ve always had the utmost respect for Peyton Manning as an athlete and competitor, and I’ll also admit I’ve enjoyed his humorous turns in a variety of ad campaigns. He’s far looser, with better comedic timing than his wooden and unfathomably two-ringed younger brother Eli (another rant for another time). This may well be his final season and it would be awfully sweet to see him go out a champion. Also, suck it Colts.

As for Cam Newton, he’s at the top of his game and a possible 2016 MVP candidate. It’s fun to watch a guy who just won the Heisman Trophy five years ago dominate the sport. The fact that he’s also extraordinarily good looking has nothing to do with my affinity (lies).

But you know what? Other than perhaps the first three contests of the 2015-2016 Bears season, Super Bowl 50 might be the ONLY game I’ve given a shit about in awhile. Yes, the former Monsters of the Midway went a pathetic 0-3 and never improved much. Sure my fantasy team comfortably finished in last place. And I admit I was out of my survival pool by Week 5. I miserably own all of these misfortunes, but I’d be lying if I claimed they weren’t the year-over-year norm.

No, for three colossal reasons, I’ve just found it hard to care much about this season. My love of sports and competition springs eternal, but National Football League, if you’re listening? I’m over it. Notwithstanding welcome and overdue news of Buffalo’s hiring Kathryn Smith, breaking the glass ceiling as the league’s first female assistant head coach, I’m just not that into you anymore.

Here’s why.

The absurd greed.

The NFL has finally begun paying taxes, but corporate whore Roger Goodell and his machine generate over $10 billion in revenue for football. It’s a business, and this fact permeates seemingly everything the Ginger Hammer decrees (thanks Drew Magary!).

  • The decision to depart from Roman numeral 50 for the coming Super Bowl, and the fact that this story about the merchandising theory behind it ran on CNN Money.
  • The strong but struggling Midwestern city of St. Louis delivered a huge blow with the Rams’ pending relocation to Los Angeles, California. Despite valiant efforts by city leaders to make staying in place an attractive deal for the team, shitbag CEO Stan Kroenke trashed the Lou, and per Sports Illustrated, “the NFL and its ownership followed the money.”
  • And as a female fan weary of the league’s blatant, rampant misogyny (see #3 below), I can’t even deal with it’s misappropriation of the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon without actually raising funds for research.

The long-term injuries

It’s true that the NFL agreed to a $1 billion concussion settlement with thousands of former players, stemming from the brutal sport’s catastrophic injury record. It’s also true that there is serious doubt about whether this amount can ever be enough to reimburse a steady stream of former athletes for their medical bills and ruined lives. Just this month, former Steelers star Antwaan Randle El opened up about his struggles with memory loss and balance. He’s a mere 36 years-old and was never seriously impaired during his playing days. Yet he says, “I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.”

This is a tragedy and there are too many human stories like it. A fellow writer and friend recently observed, “I said in a blog post once that I wonder if, in the future, our support for the game will be seen as barbarian.”

It’s getting tough not to feel barbaric for continued support of a system that allows an unacceptable number of men to commit suicide as pain relief.

The chauvinism

I wish I had a stronger word for this last one, but I already used “misogyny” and I don’t like to be linguistically repetitive. Ray Rice and thousands more overpaid, entitled, criminal cases like it – spoken and perhaps just as often, hushed. The New York Times titles the sport’s unchecked – and frequently unpunished – violence against women,”a quandary.” Once again the nomenclature seems feebly understated.

The Super Bowl is a national event and millions are looking forward to a Patriots-free contest, while relishing the commercials and spectacular half time show. Including me. But it feels different in 2016, much more bittersweet. I don’t know how if my engagement can survive the offseason into the fall. The NFL is going to have to do some work over the next six months to demonstrate less cynicism. The lack of currency involved may not matter to Roger Goodell and the league, but continuing to ignore fact is bad business for my moral conscience.

Manning the Transition (October 15, 2013)

For lovers of the NFL, one of the big stories of the season so far is the resurgence of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. The 37 year-old has simply been on fire, and in the course of a career filled with numerous triumphs and milestones, the athlete is poised to turn in his best year yet.

For a number of reasons, not the least being his calendar age (in 2008, the average quarterback handed in his cleats at 29.1 years old), Peyton is a marvel. For comparison purposes, you don’t have to look farther than another branch of the Manning family tree. Peyton’s younger brother Eli is the two-time Super Bowl-winning QB of the New York Giants. The 31 year-old Eli “leads” the league this season with 15 interceptions in just six games. Turn on any Sunday game broadcast and you’ll hear commentators celebrate Eli’s “Hall of Fame” career as if he has already retired. Ouch.

But there’s another facet of Peyton Manning 2.0 that is every bit as inspirational as his longevity. And that is his almost bionic ability to rebound from serious injury.

In May 2011, four years after Manning’s Indianapolis Colts shamed the Chicago Bears at Super Bowl XLI, the superstar underwent neck surgery to deal with neck pain and arm weakness that had plagued him for several seasons. Just two months later, the Colts displayed confidence in their marquee player by signing him to a five-year, $90 million contract extension.

The first procedure unfortunately failed to yield the necessary results, and in September 2011 Manning underwent a second, much more serious surgery – a level one cervical fusion. The Iron Man had never missed a game before, but was forced to sit out the entire 2011 season during his recovery. Meanwhile the Colts had drafted the promising Andrew Luck and were getting antsy to put him on the field. And so in what may go down in hindsight as one of the most questionable and ungrateful moves in NFL history, Indianapolis released Manning on March 7, 2012.

Just over two weeks later, after the legend visited and worked out with several NFL teams (I will NEVER forgive the Bears for not trying to make the man a serious offer), he signed with the Denver Broncos on March 20, 2012. The rest, as they say is history and to invoke a second cliché, the moral of the story is: if Peyton Manning tells you his has gas left in the tank, believe him!

Beyond simple admiration for Manning’s talent, temerity and professionalism, I am invoking the player this week as an inspirational figure. For myself. In the last several months, life has been turned upside down by chronic pompholyx eczema that is slowly taking over my hands. Burning, painful itch and disfigurement has pretty much consumed my waking hours, affecting my career (often my extremities are too swollen and uncomfortable for typing), my self-esteem and beloved, therapeutic exercise routines (adieu, Russian kettlebells). I am still coming to terms with the reality that my once soft, unblemished hands are never returning. Mitigate and workaround is the best I can do. Too often we don’t realize how much we’ve taken something for granted until it is gone. I am an Italian woman who no longer uses her hands demonstratively in conversation. The sense of touch is limited to the hours of the day free from plastic gloves, and restricted to those certain not to recoil from my frightening looking appendages.

Though I am making peace with and saying goodbye to certain elements of my former existence, I have to believe that new opportunities will present themselves, else I’ll give into the temptation to wallow (and yes, I will have those days). My talented hairstylist and friend Linda told me last week she was surprised that there isn’t more awareness of pompholyx eczema, given the incredibly debilitating and depressing nature of the condition. She then pointedly added “I know a great writer who could change that.” While I’m not sure I’m ready to be the “face” (or hands) of pompholyx, Linda got me thinking of how I might ultimately put my suffering to good use.

I’m still sorting it out, but as a source of comfort and motivation, I’m seeking identification with a post-Colts released Peyton Manning. We’ll never know exactly what was going through Manning’s head in the moment, but I can imagine the loss of support from the team he built hurt a great deal. Maybe he experienced moments of doubt about his playing future. Perhaps he wondered if he’d ever return to champion form, before promptly silencing all of those internal questions and external detractors with mind-boggling productivity.

Maybe there’s a Becky 2.0 waiting to be unleashed: a little older, slower to heal, more deliberate and thoughtful in her movements. Trades have to be made. Chances have to be taken. Unproductive days have to be anticipated and respected. But perhaps my Denver Days are still ahead.